Thursday, March 10, 2016

Faith No Guarantee of Affirmation

By Colleen O’Sullivan

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright:  “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings…  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own thoughts God will take care of him…”  These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.   (Wisdom 2:1a, 20-22)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.  Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him.  (Psalm 34:19-20)

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill?  And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.  Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?  But we know where he is from.  When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”  (John 7:25-27)

O Lord, grant us strength for the journey with your Son these last few weeks of Lent.

So much about our Christian faith is paradoxical:  the first shall be last, the least shall be greatest, etc.  The writer in the Book of Wisdom portrays life as seen from the perspective of the godless.  He says that, in their eyes, good people are the despised of the world, simply because they are good.     Go figure.  People of faith are a scourge to them.  We annoy them, maybe because their way of life doesn’t look so good in comparison.    People with no faith complain that the ways of believers are different from everyone else’s.  I would hope so.  That’s how we Christians want it to be.  We don’t want to be conformed to the world.  We are trying to walk another path, the Way of the Cross, the Way of the Lord.

Faith, purity of heart, and goodness toward others don’t guarantee approval or support at all.  Often just the opposite, as witnessed by the brutal murder in Yemen less than a week ago of 16 people, including 4 Missionaries of Charity sisters, at a convent and nursing home they ran for the elderly and disabled.

Jesus would tell us in a heartbeat how it really is, because he knows firsthand.  In today’s Gospel reading, it’s the Feast of Tabernacles, but Jesus is reluctant to travel in Judea.  He has more to accomplish and there are people there trying to kill him.  He finally decides to follow his disciples to celebrate the Feast, but he goes in secret.  In Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the temple to teach.  When Jesus says where he has come from, the Father, people try to have him arrested. 

The good news in all of this is found in the psalm for today, “When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.  Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him.”  We are not alone.  God is always with us.  Jesus is ever at our side.   I’d rather be rooted in Christ than place much trust in the ways of the world.  Pick up a newspaper, turn on the news.  The world can be an ugly place at times.

Almost eleven years ago, I made my Cursillo weekend.  When I told my family I would be away and what I was doing, you would have thought I had announced I was joining a bizarre cult.  Relatives and friends of my mother who had never called me before were on the phone wanting to know what this “Cursillo thing” was all about.   According to one family member, I was becoming “too fervent” in my faith.  Now I can laugh about the family “crisis” caused by my desire to unite with other Cursillistas in proclaiming the Gospel and to grow in my faith, but at the time it didn’t seem so funny.  Sometimes even our families are part of the tug of war between the ways of the world and the Way of Jesus.

There are always going to be people trying to pull us away from what we know to be good and true, our faith in God.  When have you experienced this?  How did the Lord deliver you, as the psalmist put it?

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